Once upon a time, not all that long ago, in a country not that far away, lived a little boy named Mickey. Mickey lived in Ireland, and he was quite sure that there were Leprechauns living there too. At least his grandfather often told him stories about the little creatures called Leprechauns, and so Mickey was quite sure they were about. The part of grandfather’s stories that he liked best was about the pot of gold. Every Leprechaun had a pot of gold, and if you could catch one, he had to give the pot of gold to you. But search as he would, Mickey could never find them. Mickey even left notes in the woods, in places where he thought perhaps Leprechauns might live, inviting them to come and play at his house. But alas, he never found one, and none of them ever came to play. So Mickey grew up to be a young man. He was beginning to doubt that they really existed at all.
One fine Spring day, Mickey was walking down the road from his house to visit his grandfather, who was now quite old. Along the side of the road was a tall hedge, so thick you could barely see through it. Mickey thought he heard a humming sound coming from the other side of the hedge. He stopped and listened. Sure enough, he could hear someone humming a tune. Mickey carefully pushed his hand into the hedge so he could see the other side a little better. “Surely to goodness,” he said to himself, very quietly, for there on the other side of the hedge, sitting on a fallen log on the ground was a Leprechaun. He seemed to be watching something up in the top of a nearby tree.
Mickey was very excited, but he knew he had to keep calm. How could he catch this Leprechaun he asked himself. Just a few feet back the way he had come was a small hole in the hedge, just big enough for Mickey to crawl through. So he did, but he carefully peeked out of the hole to be sure he hadn’t been seen. The Leprechaun was very busy watching that tree, and so Mickey quietly and quickly squirmed out of the hole in the hedge and ran across the grass and grabbed that Leprechaun by the arm. “I’ve got you now!” Mickey told him.
One thing Mickey remembered from his grandfather’s stories was that if you ever caught a Leprechaun you had to look him right in the eye, and never look away. If you looked away for even a second, Poof, the Leprechaun would be gone, even if
you were holding on to him. “Now,” said Mickey, still holding on and looking the Leprechaun in the eye, “You know you have to give me your pot of gold. Where is it.” “Oh, it’s right over there. It’s buried of course. Look over there,” said the Leprechaun, pointing out in the field near a bush. But Mickey didn’t look at the bush. He was too smart for that. “Take me to the spot where you’ve buried your gold.”
With Mickey never taking his eye off the Leprechaun, the two of them walked way out into the field to the bush where the Leprechaun said his pot of gold was buried.
“It’s right under here,” the Leprechaun told Mickey. “All you have to do is to dig it up.”
Well that sounded easy, except Mickey didn’t have a shovel. He didn’t have anything at all to dig with. He got down on his knees and, still keeping an eye on the Leprechaun, tried to dig with his hands. But that didn’t work very well. He knew he would have to go on to his grandfather’s house and get a shovel.
But the field was full of bushes, and they all looked just like the one under which the Leprechaun said his gold was buried. So Mickey took his bright red hankerchief out of his pocket and tied it to the bush. He made the Leprechaun promise not to touch that hankerchief, nor to remove it from the bush. The Leprechaun promised. “You caught me fair and square,” he told Mickey. “The pot of gold is yours if you dig it up.”
So Mickey turned and headed down the road to grandfather’s house. As soon as he turned his head, Poof, the Leprechaun disappeared. It only took Mickey a little while to go to grandfather’s house, get a shovel, and walk back to the field where the gold was buried under that bush.
But when he got there, he was in for a big surprise. True to his word, the Leprechaun hadn’t touched Mickey’s red hankerchief. It was still tied to the bush. But to which bush? For now, every bush in that whole field, there were dozens and dozens of them, had a bright red hankerchief tied to it. Mickey couldn’t tell which one was his.
He thought he remembered, and he dug a hole under a bush he thought was the right one. But no it wasn’t. He dug under another bush, and another, and yet another. But he never found that pot of gold.
Mickey lived to be a very old man, and he never saw or heard another Leprechaun for the rest of his long life. But he had several grandchildren, and he was very fond of telling them his story about how he once had found a Leprechaun.
[ Adapted from an old Celtic folk tale by Pennsylvania Jack ]